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BeatTips Tutorials: Working from 3-Bar Loop Arrangement Schemes

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My Method for Building 3-Bar Loops

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Although 2- and 4-Bar loops are among the most common arrangement (sequence) structures in Beatmaking, the 3-bar loop is not only just effective, it can often produce more interesting results. Still, getting the 3-bar loop to work can be difficult. A couple of weeks ago, TBC member Ace2CWB posted a question about 3-bar loops in the community (3 Bar Loops). There were some good replies. sframpt pointed out that “you can do interesting things in terms of composition with a 3 bar loop,… for example, consider creating a 2-bar rhythmic pattern against the loop (ie the clave in latin music). The rhythms will only sync up every six bars in that case. it gives the music rhythmic tension and makes it less predictable.” I also chimed in with a response, seeing how I dig working from 3-bar loop schemes.

There are many ways to go forward with a 3-bar loop. However, it depends a lot on which part of the sample (samples are not loops, we *make* them loop) that you like or need the most. If you want to keep the entire sample *as is*, then within the 3-bars, you can create a drum pattern that makes everything mesh together.

In the past, when using 3-bar loops, I’ve placed a snare on the first step of the sequence, and then arranged my kick pattern around it, usually something rather simple. Most of the time, that solved the issue. Other times, an additional “covering sample” (usually just a snippet of the same sample) at either the end of the 2nd bar or 3rd bar solved the issue for me. Usually, this would involve somehow getting a 4-bar structure, though.

But in those cases where that didn’t work, I copied the 3-bars, making them six. Now with the six bars, I deleted the last two, giving me 4 bars. I’d play the 4 bars to see what/where I was lacking something. Keep in mind, I would not delete the original 3-bar loop, because I wanted to use it as a reference. So even though I was working on just one beat, I would have three (or more) separate sequences of the same idea. This means that I would have the original 3-bar loop sequence, the 6-bar loop sequence, and the 4-bar loop sequence. For each sequence, I would construct a slightly different drum pattern, varying in complexity and syncopation.

Now, this is where mute groups (I call them “cut offs” in The BeatTips Manual) really helps. On each of the sequences, I would experiment “cutting off” different points of the sample. Often this would tell me exactly which part/moments of the sample that I really wanted and which parts I didn’t actually need. Having discovered that, it became easier to identify if I needed a 3-, 2-, 4-, 6-, or 8-bar sequence. If I still found—after all of that—that the 3-bar loop was the best, I would just make a 2-bar drum structure (lead by the snare) inside of the 3 bars, then I’d duplicate everything to give me 6 bars (a pair of 3-bar sequences). Main reason I duplicate up to 6? Because as a rhymer, I like the longer structure, because it allows me to put in a specific sound (like my infamous Hat X) on the 6th bar, which helps me with my timing, and gives sound a level of uniqueness.


The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album ‘The Best of Times.’ Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

  • Deviant

    A good example of this is when Alchemist tagged 3 four bar loops together so the signature is 12 bars every loop or repetition. He was experimenting with 3 bars when he made this and it’s a banger! I will be incorporating more 3’s 5’s and 7 bar changes. All of the ‘golden trinity’ ie Dilla Pete and Primo have been doing this subtly for YEARS. Now have a re listen to this

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